Illustrated by Claudia Pilbeam
Elevator doors open to a 2030s revival-deco foyer, complete with black marble floors, vaulted mirror ceilings and chandeliers.
The bellhop beckons.
This is Floor 273, Sandhurst & Stanthorpe Holdings, for which this particular sir has been authorised for. His reproduction suit pockets have been turned out, his bag screened, his various IDs and licenses scrutinised. He is a body worker, a chauffeurone.
This explains his size, taught shoulder-span inside polyester, the contents of his duffel bag. Work-alias too, like the rest. Credits were counted for booking and boarding fees, baggage handling, emergency exit access, elevatorial insurance etc.
‘Thank you again, sir,’ the bellhop drawls. ‘For choosing to travel today with Chrysler Line elevators. We hope to see you in future.’
Stiff, like cheap bourbon.
The chauffeurone exits. The doors close behind him and the whole foyer judders. He struts across the marble. The receptionist is dressed to fit the room, strapped and sequined in 50-year-old fashion. Wrinkled antique mags lie across the desk; she gawks into her computer screen.
The chauffeurone clears his throats. ‘I am here to see Mr Hahn. I am Henry Kissinger.’
The receptionist follows something on the screen, to and fro. ‘Mr Hahn is not here, presently. You’ll have to leave and call in later.’
‘That can’t be—’
‘Mr Hahn is a very busy man,’ sighs the receptionist. ‘He only takes appointments. You’ll have to leave and call in later. Maybe then,’ – she brushes back a blonde lock, casts a thick-lashed look at him – ‘we’ll find time to book you in.’
Kissinger tries a smile. ‘You misunderstand.’ He holds out his practicing license. ‘Mr Hahn is the one who made the appointment.’
The receptionist takes the card, looks him up and down. ‘Aughta fuckin said, Henry Kissinger.’ She hits a button. ‘Joe, you hear me? Joe, get up. The chauffeurone’s here.’ She slides the license back. ‘He’ll be in his office.’
Kissinger takes it. ‘Thank you.’
Crystal chandeliers rattle as the elevator goes by.
Her eyes flicker over him again. Through mascara, they are palest green, like the last sip of chardonnay in the bottle. ‘It’s last on the right,’ she says.
That it is, with a plaque engraved J. S. Hahn, Esquire.
There are dozens of plaques on the dozens of identical black doors Kissinger has passed, but polished without names, they are mirrors. Warm brandy eyes glance back at him. Kissinger smooths polyester creases. He traces the hipflask in his pocket.
Just a little wouldn’t hurt, would it?
No, get paid first.
That elevator cost was enough.
No use continuing to be behind on rent.
But that’s it, what he needs to be – men like Hahn always fancy a brandy. In fact, there’s already a drink in his hand. Ice catches what small light there is in the office.
‘Ah, just who I was waiting to see,’ Mr Hahn chuckles. ‘Sit.’
He himself reclines in a red velveteen chair, behind an arcing synth-wood desk. The window behind him plays sunsets over 2000s New York cityscapes.
It all begins with familiar pomp.
‘I have a business function tonight,’ motions Mr Hahn. ‘Upper stratos, Floor 2-kay-somethin. Everyone who’s anyone in Even Newer York will be there: Silicons, Moonheads, even the Governor of our fair hive of Connecticut. So, what happens the day before? My usual throws his back out.’ Mr Hahn throws back the rest of his drink. ‘And then the agency wants me to pay property damages.’
The desk whirrs. Another full glass appears, golden in twilight.
Some kind of algal-whisky.
Kissinger blinks through the smell. He unzips his duffel bag and passes a portfolio across the desk. ‘As you can see, sir, I am able to dress to a great number of occasions and themes.’
Mr Hahn thumbs through the photos. ‘This is good. I like this one. Could work.’ He throws one back: Kissinger topless in tie-dye flares. ‘Tell me, where do you get these outfits from?’ Hahn grins. ‘Something on the side?’
‘No, sir, I make them in my spare time.’
‘That’s nice, very nice. You independent types always keep things interesting.’ Mr Hahn claps his hands. ‘Time to strip. Ready to see the goods.’
Kissinger stands to oblige. ‘Of course, sir. Seeing is believing.’
Hahn downs another mouthful.
Kissinger removes everything, down to jocks and garter belt. He folds it over chair, takes a step back.
Mr Hahn clears his throat. ‘Gimme a light.’
His desk whirrs. A lit cigar appears.
Hahn bangs on the desk. ‘The other kind.’ He takes it anyway.
A synth-wood latch opens on Kissinger’s side. A deskineer emerges with a hand-torch. Mr Hahn orders the child around as they circle Kissinger, who turns and flexes each and every muscle as they are illuminated.
‘I said abs then glutes, not quads,’ barks Hahn. He throws a half-empty glass and misses. Once the reviewing process has finished, the child picks it off the carpet and takes it with them back into the desk.
‘Faulty piece o’ shit.’ Mr Hahn reclines further. ‘So, what’s the going rate?’
Kissinger details them.
‘Nice, very nice. Cheaper than agency, of course, which’ – Hahn gestures to the room – ‘is why I’m hiring you in the fuckin first place.’ He presses something under the desk. ‘Did you hear that, Delilah? It’s a done deal. Wire the credits for, uh—’ He runs his tongue round his mouth.
Henry Kissinger repeats his alias.
‘Yeah, Mr Kissinger here. God, these old-timey names you people pick.’
Kissinger glances round the room.
Yes, why would anyone be so fascinated with the past?
But this means pay.
Kissinger changes into uniform boots, tuxe-shorts and waistcoat. ‘Now, would sir first prefer cradled, across-the-shoulders, or piggyback?’
Like a great many clients, Mr Hahn makes a show of the ums and ahs before, like a great many clients, making the same decision.
Piggyback is most preferred.
Mr Hahn is not a heavy man. His pinstripe suit is oversized, hiding his featherweight. But he is difficult in other ways. Cigar smoke billows forward into every step Kissinger makes; his client’s is an overzealous locomotion. After a few dim laps around the office and canters across the empty black marble hallway, Mr Hahn steers towards the front desk.
‘Delilah! Book me the next available elevator! I’m going out to lunch!’
Floor 326, The Chinatown Association’s Buddha’s Chalice Bar & Restaurant.
It is a liquid lunch.
Algal-whisky does not mix well with cocktails, or soju, or sake, or even a dessert brandy. After his client is turned out for vomiting more than he’s spent, and missing the courtesy bucket one too many times, Kissinger cradles his client in the return elevator.
The bellhop wrinkles his nose.
Hahn mumbles. ‘S’not over. Show ‘em. Night’s get me all I-‘
Until he passes out. Lucky bastard.
He could’ve offered one. Just the one, even on duty.
Elevator doors open to that black and silvered foyer. The bellhop readies himself. ‘Thank you agai—’
Hahn retches as urine-streaked Kissinger crosses the threshold. He gurgles, so his head is shifted for safety’s sake. You can’t continue to be paid if the client chokes on their own vomit. You can’t continue to pay rent, or drink it away yourself.
Kissinger blinks through the smell, marches on.
The receptionist is nowhere to be seen. Better just to keep walking back to Hahn’s office, so that he can clear up before his next enterprise, tonight’s supposed ‘function’. Before Kissinger reaches the handle, the office door opens.
A female figure in an iridescent jumpsuit. She scowls but steps aside, hoop earrings swinging. She runs a hand back through dark, damp hair. It has been teased out of false curls.
‘Earlier than expected,’ she sighs. She won’t look at either of them. ‘Just put him on the couch and clean yourself up. You still have time.’
Kissinger does just that. ‘What do you mean, still have time?’
In the office twilight, that jumpsuit spits oily technicolours into his eyes. He feels something on his forehead; hand comes away sweaty. ‘What do you mean? I’m on the clock till tomorrow.’
‘For the moment, sweetie.’ She saunters to Hahn’s desk and asks for a cigar. ‘Still, better you get washed down.’ She motions behind Kissinger to the adjoining en-suite. ‘No one wants you like that.’
Kissinger looks at his suit, still folded over the chair, hipflask tucked away.
No, better not, at least for now.
When the financier-police bust down the door halfway through Kissinger’s shower, it all begins to start making sense. The receptionist’s outfit.
Kissinger isn’t going to get paid at all.
The unconscious Hahn is cuffed and gurneyed away.
Kissinger sits in the marble hallway, half-dressed and still soaking from the shower, as he is questioned. Without his clothes and IDs, he is ordered to give his private name.
‘So, Miguel Velasquez, are you or have you ever been,’ squares a financial officer, ‘a property of one Joseph Spencer Hahn?’
Before time to answer, the receptionist intercedes, waggling a handful of IDs, Kissinger’s among them. ‘This one’s with me. Independent.’ She bundles Kissinger’s belongings into his arms. ‘I’m heading about 70 floors down, promotion,’ the receptionist whispers. ‘After that, blow me or it’s on your own creds.’
Kissinger feels for the hipflask’s shape. It’s there.
In the elevator, the bellhop ignores the dripping chauffeurone and tries complementing her new look. ‘I love your earrings. They really, uh- bring out the colour in your-‘
‘Shut it. I’m not paying for small talk.’
Kissinger clears his throat. ‘I should thank you. Delilah, right?’
‘Yeah.’ She takes out that cigar, lights it and takes a drag. ‘But now it gets to be Alejandra.’
Rory Hawkins is an English/Irish-grown & Meanjin/Brisbane-based creative writing student in his second year. In his work, he loves exploring ideas of expectations, perspective, and the every-day weird. With short stories and sometimes poetry, Rory wants to create pieces you’ll not just reread but reinterpret every time. Find more of his fiction in Glass from 2021’s Fiction Week, poetry and prose in ScratchThat Magazine, read aloud with QUT’s Literary Salon, and any other random bits through his Instagram @rory_writes_sometimes.
Glass Fiction Week is an annual celebration of QUT students writing fiction. As part of Glass Fiction Week 2022, we sat down with Rory Hawkins, author of Going Down, for a discussion about his writing practice. Read our Q&A with Rory here, and submit your details here if you would like a (free!) hardcopy of Glass: The Fiction Edition, which includes all five stories published during the week.